Learning comes from passion

Manjula Rao

Note: This article is about the experience of the bhaiyas and didis who help the teachers and children in the primary section of the school I used to work in. The first part of this article is their story as they told me. I then go on to tell you how it all began.

As we work with small children in a school, we decided that we also should know how to read and write either in Hindi or English or maybe even both. Some teachers and students came forward to help us fulfill our desire. And so our journey began.

It was decided that we would have a class every Saturday at 9 ‘o’ clock in the morning. Our teachers were always there, waiting for us.

At first we found it very difficult to learn. We were shy, diffident and felt helpless. We could not understand one sound from the other.

But with time, our fears turned into motivation. We learnt with zeal. We produced sounds, learnt letters and words.

Today we are able to recite short rhymes too. We can write our own names now and soon we will be writing sentences. Our heartfelt gratitude to our teachers, the students of middle school, and Agrika and Khushi from primary school.

From: Sunder Bhaiya, Sakhi, Manju, Gudiya, Sunita, Pintu and Bala.

How it all began…
It all began with pleasant greetings exchanged between the didis, bhaiya and me. ‘Good Morning, Ma’am, ‘Good Evening, Ma’am’, ‘Good Night, Ma’am’. Their pride in saying these few English words was so obvious that I could not help myself from having a chat with them. In the course of my conversations with them, I learnt that most of them were illiterate or had studied only up to the primary level. Only bhaiya had studied up to +2. He was, however, extremely keen to learn to converse in English.

It occurred to me that maybe I could realize this dream of theirs. Following all protocols, I, with a few other teachers and students, began Hindi and English reading and speaking classes with them.

Bhaiya decided he would meet me at home (I used to live on the school premises), before his duty hours, every Saturday morning for an hour. Fair enough, I thought.

It was an unforgettable experience. Their journey and ours had many hurdles, but we reached the scheduled destination.

Then a challenging idea struck me. All teachers had at least one assembly duty in a term. Mine was scheduled within the next two months. With a lot of coaxing, I decided to hold an assembly with the didis and bhaiya rather than with the students. And practice began in earnest. The day before the assembly, the didis seemed to be in a different mood, a little inattentive. A little uneasy. I told bhaiya. “You take their practice. I am tired. I will sit at the back in the hall as an observer. Please read the introduction in English which I am supposed to read tomorrow, from the screen.” He looked at me as if a thunderbolt had struck him. “Only for now,” I said and walked to the end of the hall.

Bhaiya was computer savvy. He switched on my laptop connected it to the speakers and the screen, switched on the mike (all too professionally) and read through the introduction standing at the dias where I was to stand the next morning! He stopped just at two words to ask me for the pronunciation. He completed reading the speech with confidence. A wave of joy hurried me back to the front of the hall, clapping vigorously, till I reached bhaiya.

“You will read the introduction tomorrow morning,” I said to him. I saw the surprise on his face, but a little encouragement that he could do it, helped. And read he did! He rehearsed once or twice with the didis doing their bit.

All I did the next morning was to make an announcement that that day the assembly would be conducted by bhaiya and didis. No one should ridicule them in any way. An applause would be highly appreciated.

Bhaiya began reading out the prayers for the assembly.

What followed has been an achievement of their lives and mine too. Bhaiya’s introductory address in English won everyone’s admiration and his scheduled vote of thanks in Hindi, at the end, was par excellence. I can promise that I could not have done a better job. The flow of the Hindi language, in which he thanked the audience in the hall, was amazing. The didis were all beaming from ear to ear. What an applause echoed in the hall! A memory etched in the minds of the didis and bhaiya that they can do it too. Their effort was hugely appreciated.

The Assembly Programme

1. Prayer in English – Sunder Bhaiya
“In some ways we are evil. Oh God! Help us to see it and amend. In some ways we are good. Help us to be better. Recreate in us the soul of service, the spirit of peace. Renew in us the sense of joy, the sense of the power of good.”
2. Welcome Address in English – Sunder Bhaiya
3. Self-expression – Why she wants to learn – Bala in Hindi
4. Poem in Hindi – Ek Ek – Sakhi, Gudiya, Sunita, Pintu.
5. Poem in English – Little Robin Red Breast – Sakhi, Manju
6. Speaking Sentences in English – This, these, that, those – Bala, Sunita (displaying objects)
7. Story in Hindi – Hathi aur Chuhe – Sakhi
Read from the screen
8. An Action Rhyme – One two, buckle my shoe – All the participants
9. A vote of thanks in Hindi – Sunder Bhaiya
Thank you

The author is a retired teacher. Her articles are based on her varied experiences teaching at different levels- college, senior school, primary school, special needs children, rural children at an NGO, and as a Head of a school. She worked with different ideas to make her lessons challenging and to break the monotony of text-based learning. She can be reached at
[email protected].

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